The 1970’s was a time of increasing political unrest and crime rates. In those days, radio and television stations would routinely air this public service announcement: “It’s 10PM: Do you know where your children are?”
The announcement reminded parents to be mindful of their kids’ activities and whereabouts to help keep them safe. Of course, in those days there were no cell phones or apps for tracking kids or contacting them. Without Caller ID, if the kids happened to call back home to check-in they could be anywhere and doing almost anything.
Now, as we enter 2018, the Internet of Things (IoT) extends well beyond the boundaries of a controlled “home” environment exposing them to a wide variety of threats. With the accelerating proliferation of far flung network attached devices and rising concerns about cybersecurity, it’s time for a new public service announcement: It’s 2018, do you know where your devices IoT are?
By definition, the IoT is connected to a network and can call home using network monitoring applications such as SpiceWorks, SolarWinds, or a host of other network monitoring tools.
Many of these IoT devices can even report if they have been threatened or violated. But in most cases, without the benefit of a current map or floor plan with device locations, the issue remains as it was for kids 40 years ago: where is Johnny — really?
“But”, you might say, “if we can reach our IoT devices over the network and know they are alive and well, does it really matter that we know where they are?” Let’s examine a few of cases.
Let’s say a “bad actor” has discovered how to virtually take control of one of these IoT and has brainwashed it — it no longer recognizes your parental authority. In many cases, the only thing to do is to physically go to the device and literally “pull the plug”. If you have more than just a few devices on a large building or campus environment, figuring out the location of the rogue device could cost hours of precious time.
A prominent recommendation from cybersecurity experts today is to maintain all IoT devices with the latest firmware. In many cases, firmware updates require physical access to the device – particularly with older devices which also happened to be the most vulnerable. So, the IT professional’s first question is: “Hey Joe, you’ve worked here a few years, do you know where all of the Xcaliber SR Mega-Zings are located?”
Perhaps you’ve identified a firmware patch that needs to be applied to 500 devices that will take them offline for 15 minutes or so. It may be a good idea to know which locations or areas will be impacted during the upgrade. An unanticipated interruption to critical operations would create an entirely new crisis. A floor plan with device locations could be helpful. In terms of our own ability to absorb information quickly and easily, we prefer graphical information to a stream of text-based data or even tabular formats.
Images are more engaging and allow us to assimilate more information far faster and comprehensively than any other format. This preference is particularly strong as you move up the management ladder.
Thus, an interactive floor plan showing where the IOT devices are located with links to the device details only makes sense. When it comes to managing system assets and keeping them safe, it’s essential to have up to date information available at a glance — it’s your parental responsibility. So, honestly, do you know where your IoT devices are — really? They need your protection